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Chapter 7-8

posted Oct 26, 2011 18:49:56 by
What is the role of children in Things Fall Apart? Consider Ezinma, Nwoye and Ikemefuna. How do these children represent different ideals/values within Ibo society? How do these roles relate to Ibo traditions and rituals?
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5 replies
JAMESF01 said Oct 26, 2011 21:51:04
The role of the children in Things Fall Apart is to show the failings of Ibo society. Nwoye represents the contempt Ibo society has for anyone,or thing, that is different from their set of ideals. Nwoye is able to represent this failing, because since he is not the most masculine of children he is beaten often by his father and serves as a disappointment to him. Ezinma represents the fear and superstitions Ibo society has for the spiritual plane, because even though she is just an innocent child she is viewed by the village as a ogbanje. A ogbanje is an evil spirit who dies and keeps coming back to their mothers womb to torment them. Although she never did anything wrong she is treated meanly, even the medicine man says, "You know what it is. You buried it in the ground somewhere so that you can die and return to torment your mother"(81). This superstition is silly at best and dangerous at worst and serves to show although they are advanced the Ibo society has some serious failings. Finally, Ikemefuna shows the whimsical fancy at which Ibo society will throw one of its own to the dogs. Although Ikemefuna was from another village he had been with Okonkwo for three years before he was killed and had been like family. I highly suspect that he was simply an offering of thanks for the locusts and was killed just because someone didn't consider him as a person. That is how these three children represent the failings of Ibo society.
KALI01 said Oct 26, 2011 23:58:36
I agree with James that the children represent failings, but I think they represent the roles of men and women in Ibo society as well. Nwoye listened to his father's violent stories because he "knew that it was right to be masculine and violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell" (53). Even though Nwoye does not like the violent stories his father tells, he listens to them anyway to please his father because, as a male, he must to follow the Ibo traditions of valuing masculinity. Furthermore, Okonkwo repeatedly says, "Enzinma had been a boy, I would have been happier" (65). His attitude toward Enzinma displays that even though he admires her, he feels she is useless as a girl. Boys are much more important in this society; girls will be married out by their teenage years to work for another man, their husband. Finally, Ikemefuna represents the male rule in a different way. This is illustrated when the man he has grown to know as his own father, Okonkwo, kills Ikemefuna himself, just to keep his reputation as "violent and powerful." Because the Oracle said that Ikemefuna must be killed, the whole community does not even question killing a child who practically belongs to their village now, which demonstrates their ultimate value in obeying the higher powers. Ikemefuna also portrays the ritual of killing someone, traveling and walking with the men who kill him.
SAR01 said Oct 27, 2011 00:57:50
I agree with Kali, the role of children in Things Fall Apart is ultimately to demonstrate gender roles in Ibo society. Throughout the novel, Ezinma is looked at as subordinate to her brothers, even though she has does nothing wrong and values her family above all else. Okonkwo says to himself often, Ezinma should of been a boy, which demonstrates the role of children being to please their fathers. It is very similar, the gender roles of men and women, compared to girls and boys. Girls must cook and clean, and work in the house. Boys must work outside with their fathers and above all else, be masculine. In Nwoye's case, he is constantly being criticized for expressing himself in any way. Even though Nwoye preferred his mothers stories over his father's violent and bloody ones, "He now knew that they were for foolish women and children, and he knew that his father wanted him to be a man" (54). Because Nwoye must follow the footsteps of his father, he had to disreguard his preferences, and be the ideal young man he has to be. Ikemefuna demonstrated the role of children because he was an ideal son and showed Nwoye how to be masculine and please everyone. Even though Ikemefuna did nothing wrong, The Oracle said something, and tradition was that everyone must obey The Oracle under all circumstances, so Ikemefuna was killed. This demonstrates how even if children do everything right, tradition and higher powers overrule everyone and everything.
CADYL01 said Oct 27, 2011 02:12:44
I agree with you all, (James, did you know your quote about Ezinma is from chapter 9?)
I find it fascinating how the children Okonkwo seems to have to most respect for, Ikemefuna and Ezinma, seem to be treated harshest. Okonkwo admits he has a fondness for Ikemefuna, yet he ends up killing him. Okonkwo's friend, Obierika explains, "If I were you I would have stayed home" (67). Obierika believes that although the spirits said Ikemefuna must die, they did not tell Okonkwo to carry out the deed, and so he should have stayed at home. Okonkwo, however, is so concerned with his appearance of masculinity and power he forgets to be human. After returning, Okonkwo is unable to sleep or eat for days, illustrating that even he was hurt by his actions. This incident show a failing of the Ibo emphasis on masculinity and power. When this emphasis is not kept in check by love it overwhelms common sense and can end up destroying lives. Nwoye acts almost as a foil to Okonkwo. While Okonkwo is harsh and violent, Nwoye prefers the gentle stories of his mother.Through the children the flaws of Ibo society appear. Although they are not entirely flawed, the children illustrate how the ideals and values can be taken too far.
JAMESA01 said Oct 27, 2011 03:15:12
i believe the role of children in this novel is to keep Okonkwo from flawlessly holding all his feelings in. for example, after Nwoye runs out of the hut as Okonkwo was sleeping, Okonkwo "tried not to think about ikemefuna, but the more he tried the more he thought about him". In this situation, ikemefuna acts as a bridge from Okonkwo's personality to the real world. like mentioned above Nwoye is most definitely a foil of Okonkwo because his differences in moral being of being a calm, and artsy person, highlight the rough, headstrong mentality of okonkwo. He loves them all but is scared that if he shows it then he will be portrayed as weak, and therefore does not show his true feelings.
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